A university has been branded a ‘national embarrassment’ after picking Zayn Malik and Sadiq Khan as poster boys for Black History Month.
Furious students at Kent University pointed out that neither the former One Direction singer nor the London Mayor are black – and are both from British Pakistani families.
The UK Black History Month organisers said they were ‘deeply disappointed’ at the university’s student union putting Mr Malik and Mr Khan on a list of six public figures to represent diversity.
The other people on Kent Union’s list were broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald, athlete Dame Kelly Holmes, singer Shirley Bassey and footballer Arthur Wharton.
A Black History Month spokesman said on Twitter: ‘Deeply disappointed at Kent University’s ill thought and misdirected Black History Month celebrations.
‘With Asian Heritage Month being observed by a growing number of countries in May, will black icons be celebrated then?’
Mr Khan, born in London in 1970, was one of eight children had by his parents – a bus driver and a seamstress, who had migrated from Pakistan to Britain.
Meanwhile Mr Malik, who quit One Direction after five years in March 2015 to pursue a solo career, was born in Bradford in 1993 to British Pakistani parents.
Students were quick to condemn the move by Kent Union, with Benjamin Smith writing: ‘At this point Kent Union has become a national embarrassment.’
Hettie Duncan added: ‘Kent Union making Zayn Malik the poster boy for Black History Month. They’ve really gone and done it this time.’
And an anonymous music business and innovations student said: ‘£9,000 a year to tell Zayn Malik, Happy Black History Month. LMAO, Kent Uni is a joke.’
Meanwhile Devante Wallace added: ‘It’s not just about the image shared, it’s the fact you have the audacity to try and bundle all non-white culture into black history month as if were not important enough to be represented individually. It’s offensive to all ethnic groups.’
The student union at Kent University said they aimed to ‘empower’ students through its Black History Month.
Kent Union president Rory Murray said: ‘I want to apologise on behalf of Kent Union to any individuals who were upset, uncomfortable or offended by the image shared.
‘There was no intent for this to happen and I am very sorry to anybody who felt this way. I also feel it is important to explain the context behind how this happened.
‘As a students’ union we are led by our members; over 2,000 volunteers who give up their time to run campaigns and events.
‘The Black History Month calendar of events was led and run by these students and supported by the organisation.
‘The activity for the month was decided by open meetings attended by black and minority ethnic students.
‘I hope that the passion ignited in many people in the last 12 hours will continue and that students will become further involved in leading our black and minority ethnic work.’